Subscribe Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Shine on Pailin gems seen fading

Shine on Pailin gems seen fading

Shine on Pailin gems seen fading

Workers shape and polish precious stones at a shop in Pailin province earlier this month. Photo by: Heng Chivoan

Pailin province
THE precious stone industry in Pailin province is facing bankruptcy as supplies dwindle and locals turn to agriculture as their main source of revenue, provincial authorities told the Post.

Pailin, long known for its rubies, sapphires and other precious stones, now depends on foreign imports to keep its jewelry shops stocked.

Still, many of those shops continue to close in the face of waning interest as the local population chooses instead to plant cassava and other crops.

“Gem crafts in Pailin are suffering because there just aren’t any gems for processing anymore. There are only small precious stones, so most businesses import their gems,” Lim Sam Ath, deputy director of the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy’s Pailin office, said.

Those imports are coming from Thailand, Vietnam and Sri Lanka because Cambodia’s gem supplies are on the decline, he said.

Gem dealers in Pailin confirmed the industry’s downward trend.

Chhun Karim said that in addition to the move to farming from gem mining and processing, locals had left the business also because mining has since been banned by provincial authorities because of the limited supplies. The quantity of precious stones has fallen 50 per cent since 2000, he claimed.

Another dealer, Chim Rattanak, said her gems come from Thailand and Africa now that Cambodia’s precious stones have dropped in size, quality and quantity.

Chhum Samnang, a guide operating in Pailin for about 10 years, said he previously brought between 17 and 20 foreign buyers a day to the province’s shops, but now he averages only two.

Most buyers come from Europe and Japan, he said.

“Originally, there were plenty of gems, and they were cheap. But now the province has lost its precious stones, and they are more expensive than before.”

Gem processing, where stones are cut and shaped for sale, has also felt the pinch.

Meas Sarum said his business in Pailin province’s Pailin town now has few gems to polish. As a result, his staff of three to four employees has shrunk to just one.

“I do not know how long my business will be able to stay open if things continue like this,” he said.

MIME’s Lim Sam Ath echoed those sentiments, saying he was concerned about the future of Pailin’s gem industry.

“I doubt people will return to the gem business considering how much trouble it’s in,” he said.


  • Kak Channthy, Cambodian Space Project frontwoman, killed in crash at 38 [Updated]

    Updated 5:05pm, Tuesday, March 20, 2018 Kak Channthy, frontwoman of popular The Cambodian Space Project, was killed Tuesday morning in a traffic accident in Phnom Penh. She was 38. Channthy, the internationally recognised singer-songwriter also known as “Srey Thy”, was reportedly travelling in a tuk-tuk on the city's

  • Australians protest Asean summit visit by PM Hun Sen

    Hundreds of protesters gathered in Sydney’s Hyde Park on Friday to protest against Cambodian strongman Hun Sen, who claimed to have been gifted millions of dollars by the Australian government ahead of a special Asean summit this weekend. An estimated 300 protesters, the majority of

  • One Australian, one Cambodian killed in explosion at military base

    Updated: 5:20pm, Friday 16 March 2018 An Australian tourist and a Cambodian soldier were killed in an explosion on Thursday afternoon at an army base in Cambodia’s Kampong Speu province. The Australian, whom the government initially identified as a technical demining expert in his 40s, and

  • Peeling back layers of prehistory in Battambang

    When the man passed away, he had not yet reached 50. He belonged to a tribe that had settled near the Sangker River in Battambang province, likely cultivating the fields and raising animals. On the side, they hunted for boars, and even turtles, one of which